Listening Sessions @ the Mary Lou

Lab fellows gathered for a meeting

Anthony Kelley


Type: Lab

Soulfulness and danceability are characteristics often associated with Black American music. But are there other aspects of codes that we might miss unless we engage the music with a deeper listening? How can we read the direction of Black culture through the music it produces and consumes?

This series of informal sessions of listening and dialogue organized in collaboration with the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture unpacks some of the concepts, codes, and characteristics that contribute to Black American music’s lasting legacy. Participants are encouraged to bring their own samples and examples to listen and chat.

Moderated by Anthony Kelley and other Black Music Lab members.

Spring 2022

  • Black Music and the Practice of Improvisation, A close focus on the use of improvisation in Black music over the last century.
  • Black Music Production and Technology, A close focus on the music production and technology techniques of prominent Black artists.
  • Black Music-Making and the Utilization of Musical Instruments, A close focus on the ways in which Black musicians use musical instruments and the ways in which they alter them.

Fall 2021

  • Soundtracks to Black Media and Life, A close focus on the soundtracks in landmark works of Black entertainment and media, including Black Panther, Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, Purple Rain, Shaft, and other works.
  • Black Eroticism in Music, A close focus on how artists like Prince and Lil Nas X integrated aspects of the corporeal into their sonic landscapes
  • Mary Lou and the Black Cosmology in Music, A close focus on spiritual and universal aspects of music as explored by brilliant artists (for example, Mary Lou Williams’s “Zodiac Suite,” Earth Wind and Fire’s “In the Stone,” and others).